Madeleine Albright's Jewelry and Communication Through Fashion I just got back from the Smithsonian Exhibit Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection which features more than 200 brooches within Albright's collection. She utilized jewelry as a means to deliver diplomatic messages as the former U.S. Secretary of State.
Albright began tailoring her signature style after a poet within Saddam Hussein's regime compared her to, "an unparalleled serpent." She took the comment and ran with it by displaying a snake pin during talks with Iraq - the underlying statement being, "Don't Tread on Me."
Her love of pins became a means of communicating a larger message:
Hot Air Balloons were used as a sign of high hopes.
A pin with fragments of the Berlin Wall was worn on a trip to Europe.
A space alien pin was worn, "when things took a weird turn."
Turtle pins were used as a symbol that she was going to forge steadily ahead, bit by bit.
Spiders were worn, "on those rare days when I felt devious."
A snail or crab was utilized when diplomatic talks were causing her irritation or were going at a slow pace.
A bee was worn when she had to deliver a sharp message.
The collection is stunning. Clothing is always a means of communicating who we are - our hopes, dreams, and personalities. Albright found a way to fully express her strength, sense of humor, and patriotism without saying a word. Even though the messages varied- sometimes it was a warning, sometimes it was done as a way of being a bit cheeky - it was put forth in a classy manner.
And it worked. Vladimir Putin once told Bill Clinton that Russian diplomats routinely checked to see what pin Albright was wearing to get a sense of her mood and expectations. Her jewelry became a barometer and a diplomatic signature.
When I work with a client on his / her personal style one question I ask is, "How would you like others to perceive you?" This is not so people are encouraged to be inauthentic. On the contrary, it comes down to identifying the message an individual would like to convey. Our clothes can be an ambassador of that message.
Albright's fashion definitely says "strength of spirit."
The pins exhibit will close this Sunday, October 17th, so hurry on down there! It is located within the Smithsonian Castle.